Brad and Barry leave the friendly confines of The What Podcast's worldwide headquarters and travel to Knoxville to talk directly with Ted, Steve and Bryan at AC Entertainment about how they book the Bonnaroo lineup.
Don't forget to listen to part 2 of this episode next!
Topics: Bonnaroo, AC Entertainment
Guests: Bryan Benson, Ted Heinig, Stephen Greene
Journey through the stories that define the artists playing Bonnaroo. Who are they? What are they? What will you see? The what? Which bands? This year, that matters. With Brad Steiner and Barry Courter. It is a what podcast? Exclusive, a little road trip that we took up to Knoxville, Tennessee to visit now our best friends in the world and we hope they are yours as well. Wasn't that crazy? I'm still sort of trying to get over. Is what crazy? The trip. What should we be? What did we do Barry? Well all I know is what a week ago we had this crazy idea to ask maybe Ted Heinegg, vice president of AC Entertainment to be on the show. Called him and he said, ah you don't want to talk to me. How about I get you the two guys that booked the festival? Book the line up. And I of course said no. Who would want that? You really drive a hard bargain. You really do. Who would want to know how they picked the bands that are on that line up? Well our rider was very long. We needed a lot of things to go right before we could make the trip all the way to Knoxville. And this is what we've got for you today. Today, we get to talk to the guys that actually booked the festival. So whether or not you're watching on YouTube, listening on Spotify, listening on your iTunes or any of your devices. We appreciate you being a part of the What Podcast. That's Brad, I'm Brad. That's Barry. I'm Brad. Barry Courter. I think that's right. I'm Brad Steiner. So I guess this officially kicks off season three of a podcast. Yeah and that's why I thought Ted made sense. You know, let's start with the big cheese so to speak. Actually taps we've had before. We like to have somebody from the festival sort of set the table for us most times. Set the table and yeah I mean I kid obviously when he said how about the two guys that booked it because we're still talking about that lineup you know and then to get the guys that did it and. Plus he gave us the idea which makes us much happier. They don't like we ran out of ideas. Yeah no it's terrific. What, I mean what's your takeaway from that conversation? You guys are going to hear that it's probably going to be what two parts? It's a two part. They gave us so much time. They could not have been more generous with their time. Could not have been more gracious. They gave us so much more information than I think that we ever could have asked for. It really is sort of a master class on how to do this. I mean I don't really foresee myself ever starting a music festival but if you're a nerd and I'm guessing that you are about these kind of things since you're listening to this. It's going to be a master class on how this all gets put together and includes like tidbits of information and some breaking news too through the two parts and hopefully you like it because there is a ton in here to talk about. And so here's what's going to happen. It's going to be a two parter but if you are a Patreon, if you want to sign up to be a Patreon the whatpodcast.com the Patreons are going to get the video in its entirety right now. If you are not a Patreon we still appreciate you listening but it's going to be a two parter or release the next episode next week. And once these come out we're on. We're on. We're on. Every week until I sleep in one morning. Let me ask you though, the things that we've talked about over the last three years mostly confirmed by our conversation or were there some real surprises to you or? I felt like we're pretty close. What we've been saying over the years there were a couple of things. I was surprised that it's just two guys. I was about to say that. Right now. Yeah. It's where it starts from the AC Entertainment building in Knoxville. The fact that it's really two guys. Now they will talk look the thing that I took away first and foremost the most was that they're very humble. They're insanely humble and I know that they really want to give the credit to a lot of other people and that's just in their nature. They're going to say that you know management and artists are really great and artists you know so lucky. Right. And they're going to you know say really great things about the audience and all these things are true. So I'm sure they have a great team that really goes through and helps them with hip hop where they probably don't know as much or a certain genre. Not saying they don't know anything about hip hop but I'm sure they want to give the credit to a lot of people. But that is pretty surprising if it was me. If it was you and me doing it I wouldn't be giving credit to anybody. I did this. Yeah. And the year after year planning that goes into it like they said they're a year and a half they will start out. So they're already working on next year. Right. And just to be it because you and I have been involved in planning events and not to this level but next level maybe. It almost seems like you have to start fresh every year but they don't. Right. So they're already thinking four or five years out even. Maybe. Maybe they're thinking about those big, big acts not this year but you know. Well I mean. Four years. That was interesting. Well I mean going back to a piece of news that I heard a few months ago and that Cold Play was going to be out not only for this year but also in 2021 because of the way that they do their tour schedule. Now that may definitely came true in 2020 but I don't know if it's going to work out in 2021. What I think that you can probably do a lot easier at this point right now is probably start marking people off of the list and what I found to be so refreshing is when he started talking about Steve started talking about how they're you know they have a idea what they want to do but they can't predict the cycle. They can't predict who's going to be big. They really have to go with their gut and I asked a specific question because I really do wonder how much of this is you know how much ROI they can get return on investment. How much of its data driven and you know they acknowledge that some of it because they've got to sell tickets and make money but the part where I think I'm most surprised is how much gut really plays into all of this. What does just they know what the festival is and they know what the feeling is supposed to be that they can see a band feel it hear it and then know exactly where it's going to be for the rest of the festival. You got some great information especially out of Stephen talking about the data. They definitely look at the data but the other thing that stands out is the night before that line up dropped and the week leading up his wife is like this is really good. And his response is he's like I don't know if this is very good. Night before he's like is this going to be good or not. You're going to enjoy this a lot. If you're a Patreon we appreciate you. Man we can't thank you enough. You get to see the whole thing in its entirety right now. For those that are not a Patreon sign up if you want to. Go to what podcast dot com enjoy our conversation with Steve Ted and Brian from AC Entertainment the guys that put together the 2020 Bonnaroo lineup. Enjoy. I'm crying because I love you. This is one of the great honors in the history of the what podcast. I can't believe that we're doing this outside of being inside a radio studio or a camp nut butter. We very rarely take this show on the road and I can't believe we've been invited to sit down inside the building where it all happens with the people that literally craft your Bonnaroo experience and create the feeling that you have every single year. I can't believe we're here. Barry I'm really excited about this. One of the things that I think separates us from maybe some other shows is that we try to go to the source and get the actual information when we can rather than just sort of dealing rumors or our own thoughts and opinions. We do that too but we are actually in Knoxville in the offices of AC Entertainment the guys that co-founders of the festival. We're here with Ted, Stephen and Brian. Brian and Stephen are the guys that actually booked this lineup that we're so excited about. And Ted you told me earlier in the week that tickets are selling really well. It's been a great year so far. And what we want to talk about today are the things that like how did it come together? How do you guys do this? And why does it seem like maybe this year is different than any of the others? So it's sort of you're going to let us look behind the curtain so to speak. Yeah because this is a really hard thing to do. It's a very difficult thing and I'm sure it started so long ago and you get to see it on paper be delivered like a week and a half ago. I can't imagine what that feeling is like when you finally get to hit enter or send on an email. Done. I'm absolutely done with it. I guess how long ago did it start putting what happened on paper in our eyes and on our phone? When did that process start for 2020? You know the process, it's changed over the years. It didn't used to be really as long of a process as it is now. But I'd say we work on the lineup for probably, it's close to a year and a half basically. So we will start booking the next year's Bonnaroo well before Bonnaroo actually plays through. So for example, Bonnaroo 2019 in June, we will have started on the 2020 lineup well before that. In fact, we're already conceiving and getting to work on 2021 right now. One of the things I think we want to do is ask and then answer the questions that people out there listening to this podcast might have. That was one of them that you had asked Jeff Quay or is this idea that if we can't get an act this year, maybe we can get them next year. I think that some people think you guys just sort of walk in, sit down at the table with a wish list and then go and get it. It's not that easy. No, it does not work that way at all. Obviously there's lots of factors that play into whether or not ultimately ends up on the lineup or not. We can talk about some of those if you'd like, but it's an intense process. It's one that is a daily process for Steve and I going through it. We get thrown curve balls all the time. In terms of booking far out, I think if we could book this thing, the closer to the lineup announcement we could actually book all the bands, the better. The more information we have about what is out there that's happening, that's hot, that's exciting in that moment, the further out you are, it's so hard to project ahead. I don't know really what the next great jam or hip hop or electronic act is going to be in June of 2021. I don't know that yet. I don't even know what the cycle is going to be like in a year and a half from now. There are some givens there that are usually the artists that are going to be near or at the top of your lineup every year that we can start to work on. In fact, a lot of those acts, some of the bigger named acts that you see play Bon Iru, sometimes we have to work on that years out, if not five, six years out. Some of the biggest artists that have ever played the lineup, those are manifestations of conversations that we've had for five, six, seven years in regards to planting the seeds, going and taking meetings with artists themselves and their managers and their agents and their representatives, asking them to come. This was true, especially in the early days of the festival, we would ask people to come because we firmly believe there's nothing like this event. Obviously, not in the country, but really in the world. This festival, there's nothing like Bon Iru. We would ask artists and agents and managers and representatives, just come. Come see it. Come experience it. Come understand it. Come see the production. Come see the stages. Come see the fans because that's the number one thing. Our number one selling point to artists is we have the best audience in the country. I'm betting early on when you were booking this, when you asked Axe to come to Manchester, Tennessee in June, you got a lot of why in the world would I want to go and sweat my rear end off there. That definitely happened on a number of occasions and a lot of times that would really set the stage for us to land and act, whether it be the next year or the following couple of years. It still happens. We do have some anecdotes of people being like, why should I come play this festival in the middle of nowhere Tennessee in the middle of the summer? And then you just try to explain it and you try to sell the story and tell the story. It's amazing that people still need to be told the story, but to reset the table for a little bit, first off, when you guys go to put together whatever it is that you put together for, whether or not it's big years or Bonnaroo, is it done in this room or is it done over your phones or is it done at a show? Where does it all come together? It's everywhere. It's constant. Brian and I are constantly in communication about Bonnaroo. For instance, you asked about timeline and when we book it and things like that. In September, I had King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard play a show in Asheville outside. I'd seen this band, listened to them. We've talked about them for Bonnaroo, but when I went and experienced that show, I was there and I was like, this band has to play Bonnaroo this year. It has to play, I'm giving something away here, but late night at Bonnaroo. It's just a must for this year. That was there and I probably, I don't remember if I texted you or slacked you or emailed you or something while it was happening. It's constant. It's constantly, it's in our offices, it's in this room, it's in Ashley's room, it's at dinner, it's at a show, it's driving. You know it's gonna be a certain time of day because it's just a feeling that you have. Where did that start? How long have you guys been in this building, crafting this experience, making my festival what it is? How long have you guys been doing it? How long have we been doing it? Individually. We've been in this building for only two years. We got promoted two years ago out of the slums. That's true. I mean as far as when did we start, our personal Bonnaroo story? Yeah, each of you. How many years have you been booking it? When did we start? Brian and I- Honestly, I have no idea. I can't believe we were brought into the booking process at Bonnaroo years ago. We've each been on the Bonnaroo booking team for over a decade. We've been a part of it in one way, shape, or form for probably longer than that. Honestly, I can't remember what year it was. Each of us started on the booking side. When you say the booking team, how many people does that encompass? That's a good question. It's changed them. Exactly. That's why it's a tricky one. The festival for a long time was booked by actually a committee of folks that Steve and I were a large part of. We had obviously our colleagues at Superfly and they were very much a part of that process as well. They would have folks from their side and we would join together. Each team would come with ideas and we would collaborate. That would be a couple of times a week sort of a process that would somehow, some way, even some years we don't even understand how we did it, but it would spit out a somewhat coherent if not incoherent lineup. Obviously, that's not how it's done anymore because Superfly not being involved. Just to speak to recent history, the last two years have been essentially Steve and myself calling shots and making the moves. Real quick though, we got to throw this out there. Bobby Clay from C3, he does the programming for the other stage, which we launched how many years ago? I can't remember now. Four years ago. Four years ago. Yeah. He's the mastermind behind the ADM stage. I know each lineup is sort of like a child for you, but I'm guessing you're insanely proud this year. We're proud of every year, but especially this year. I'm really happy with how it came together. Obviously, we've been elated to see the response from the fans, the community, the press. Everybody's really kind of rallied around this one. I just think it speaks to the overall balance of the bill. That is obviously what we strive for every year. We want a really balanced lineup. We want people to feel like there's all kinds of different music showcased. We want people to feel like, I can only see this lineup on the farm in Manchester. That really is one of the things that we pride ourselves on. That's one of the things that we talk about all the time, that there are certain bands that you can just see in your head at Bonnaroo, maybe on the What Stage at three in the afternoon or even three in the morning. My morning jacket is a perfect Bonnaroo act, in my opinion. There are just some acts that even when you hear them on the radio, maybe you can just picture. You can just picture them on the farm. What is the simple mission of the festival? What does management want from you guys in regard to booking the festival? Do they give you any sort of guidelines or anything in particular? Of course, as we agreed, there are Bonnaroo bands. I assume that means there are some that maybe aren't Bonnaroo bands. It's hard to answer. First of all, I'll say that from a management perspective, I think this is a real credit to how Bonnaroo is structured and set up. Steve and I pretty much have created a freedom to book this thing the way we feel like we need to book it. That really enables us to put together the best lineup that we possibly can with little to no restrictions, really. That's a great place to be. In terms of a mission, it's hard to put into words. I'll only say that because we have been a part of the planning and booking process for the lineups of this festival for over a decade, probably 12, 13, 14 years, we just kind of know what it is that we're trying to do out there. Every year, the lineup takes on a life of its own. It's just kind of how it should go. It kind of all depends on who we think we're going to end up with usually at the top. A lot of that, the headliners do in some ways dictate the ender card. Because if we're going to say Tool is going to be an anchor of our festival this year, and we don't have any other bands on the bill that Tool fans want to see, then we're not booking properly. We're not putting together the best lineup that we possibly can and really catering to the audience of the headliners. It's not all done that way, but we definitely think about things like that a lot. How much of that is data driven versus your heart or your head? It's a head versus heart argument, right? How much are you looking at data and maybe where it's succeeding somewhere else, or how much is it is, I just saw this show and I've got to have this on the farm? It's both. I mean, we look at data for sure, but we also follow our hearts. If you just look at raw data, there's acts out there that are way bigger than the acts at the top of our festival, but don't necessarily make sense at Barnard. Fit that overall mission. Yeah. I mean, Lizzo's numbers are insane this year, but when we first started talking about Lizzo, she was big, but we were taking a bit of a leap of faith and a big part of that was based on our gut and our heart and looking at this act and being like, could there be a better Saturday night main stage headliner this year than Lizzo on Bonnaroo? Well, you took a gamble and it worked because there's nobody more of the zeitgeist and more of what I think the Bonnaroo mission is from afar is than what Lizzo is. At what point did that change where you said, well, we'd like to have her, but then all of a sudden became, no, no, no, no, she needs to headline? I don't know what exactly, at what point. I think that in terms of when we were discussing booking her for 2020, it was almost all over and she was always in that headline area. We could see where it was going. Obviously we had a feeling that if we did headline her and she was going to be at the top of the poster come January, that was going to be a pretty smart move. Turns out I think we were right. I'm just fascinated as to when that happened. Was that October or September? It's like one of those things because you had had to really foresee something big happening. The only reason I say that is because, now I don't mean to do this, but I know Barry is going to kill me. This is a line of built all for Brad because there are landmines of me patting myself on the back way too much in this lineup. Lizzo, I was lucky enough to be the first person ever player on the radio. I found her on this blog. This was last October and she loved it so much that she repaid us by coming to play a show, Justin Chattanooga for free. That was in May. In May she already had her management telling me that they were going to be doing arenas by the end of the tour. If they foresaw it, I wonder how much of the conversation then changed when she was going to be booking all of 2020. A year and a half out she was already saying, no, no, no, we know exactly where this is going and I wonder how much of the conversation that was with you guys. If I could just jump in for a second, I think Benson actually booked Lizzo first on one of our festivals in 2013. Yes, it was 2016. I don't remember the year she played. It was a long time ago. You're talking about when she played Forecastle. She played Forecastle and it was the first festival that Lizzo played in the United States. I think one of the things for Bonnaroo fans to really understand is that Steve and Brian have decades plus experience booking. It's not just on Bonnaroo. We do eight or nine festivals this year. It's kind of hard to keep track of it. We're booking in general between festivals and shows over a thousand shows a year. So you get in deep and start to develop these relationships with managers and agents and artists and then it just becomes part of your DNA. Right. And kind of like what you do with your life is like be a part of this and then all of it just starts. It's like you're in the Tennessee River and you're just kind of going in a direction with the entire, like all of these people. So really when I think about what these guys did incredibly getting Lizzo on Bonnaroo as a headliner, which I think is a big moment beyond just the music. It really started at the beginning because of the relationship that we had with Lizzo's manager and agent and giving her a chance on this other festival. And that's really what it takes. Like with all the artists, like everyone doesn't have a story like that. Right. But many of these stories start at the beginning or start with what Brian was saying five or six years ago with, hey, we really think this would be an important look for your career at some point to come headline Bonnaroo. Let's start the conversation and see what that looks like. Yeah. Along those lines, I'll go ahead and ask the question because I know some people are wondering, but Lizzo is the first female headliner in Bonnaroo history. And when Brad mentioned that to me last year, I was like, really, that doesn't, doesn't seem right. It just kind of snuck up on me. And I wondered if that's how it was sort of for you guys. I mean, I don't think it was intentional. You just sort of maybe looked up and like, wow, how did that happen? Kind of thing. So here we are 18 years down the road and now she's the first. Yeah. I'd say, certainly reaction wise, it was part of it, but it's obviously, she's the perfect fit for us this year and we're elated that she's the first one to top the list there for sure. Yeah. That's kind of what I mean. You look around and you think, well, okay, who should it have been and what year? Cause you guys, you booked the best acts available, right? We booked the best acts available and first female headliner, sure. First attempt at a female headliner, definitely not. And so I think that, obviously booking a festival is like we kind of alluded to at the beginning, it's a process. It's literally, it's putting together a big puzzle and there are lots of reasons that acts do or do not end up on the bill. And this is the first time that that happened. So when it comes to where artists are put on the lineup, do you guys specifically know where they're going to fit, what slot they're going to be on the poster slash the schedule? When you say, yeah, Lizzo could definitely be a headliner, but so could Miley. Was there a conversation of, well, let's flip those or did you know all the time, the whole time that this certain artist was going to fit this certain slot? Yes. Yes, we know. We know that's how we book the festival. And that's an interesting question. And we slot artists as we book the event. And we do it that way because we are very sensitive to conflict in the schedule and we do everything we can to limit those as much as possible. Whenever you have a festival that has multiple stages that are running congruently or up against one another, especially the size of Bonnaroo where you have five, six, seven, eight stages going at once, there's going to be conflicts. There's conflicts that we don't think are conflicts that then the fans tell us are conflicts. And then we're like, oh, that was going to be a conflict. But a conflict could be 10 people just happen to like these two bands that are way different or it could be like, oh, we really blew that one. But yes, we slot artists as we book. How much wiggle room do you have when it comes to if you already booked with the schedule in mind, how much wiggle room do you have either with the artist or with your own sort of because I can understand if somebody all of a sudden blows up in a way that you didn't really see it and all of a sudden you're like, oh, we got them on this tent at a time that's really not very comfortable for us. Well, those conversations happen. They're rare, but they do happen. We've run into that in the past. I think the first time we ever booked Mumford, I remember it was kind of this thing that just kind of happened over. They exploded so quickly and we had them on Bonnaroo that year. And when we confirmed them to when the festival actually happened, it was a rocket ship. And I remember having to make some adjustments there. And those are tough conversations because every artist is slotted at this point. So to have to make adjustments on the fly because of an artist getting a lot bigger, then you have to go have some tough conversations with some of the other artists. But we work through it. And that's now, but the process is fluid while we're booking it because things Ebb and Flow, artists that we thought we were going to have fall out, artists that we didn't think we were going to have rear their heads. And we're like, oh, we really want that. So we may have something slotted in a particular place in October and then it makes more sense or it's more exciting or whatever to move it to a different place by November. We do that. And it's a constant conversation with the artists and their camps. And most of the time they're okay with it? I mean, most of the time. But we rarely are doing something that's going to have a negative effect on any of the artists. Like if we're moving something, it's rare, like Brian said, that it's because we booked, I think Phoenix was another one that we booked on what we used to call the cafe stages, like who's stage now. And then it was like, oh, we should probably move them to a tent that same year. It's rare that that's happening or the Mumford story is happening. It's more about Flow and the festival experience. So generally speaking, when we're going back to somebody and being like, hey, we think we need, we would like to move your act to this new position. It's not just because there's like a good reason for it. And if we believe in it, then generally we can convince the artists and their teams that it makes sense. Yeah. And hopefully by this point, there aren't any changes. That would be ideal. But throughout the process, the way our grid looks changes every day. And it's just a matter of, oh, an agent calls and says, oh, we can only play on Sunday now. Yeah. OK. We've got to move some things. So this is constantly happening. Or we have an artist slot it in a slot and it's an offer that isn't yet confirmed and then they don't confirm. And so that opens up a spot and then we have a new decision to make. And this is really where I mean, I can't stress enough how much fun we have doing this together because it's really when you get down to it, we really do it like if we have a slot open on Friday in a tent, we really look at what do we have that's confirmed in this slot on the other stages? What do we need there? What could we put there? It is going to fit with the mix of other artists that are going to be playing at that time. And that's really where we have a lot of fun with it. And that's really where we get to play curator. Yeah. And really place, hey, what would be really cool? What if and this is where we get together. What if we did this right there? Let's reach out and let's see if that acts available. And this is where we really get to piece together the bill. It's a three dimensional Spotify playlist, really. Oh, for sure. Yeah. Yeah. And the biggest challenge is or one of the biggest challenges is it's almost like the blessing and the curse, right? We're blessed with the fact that we are lucky enough to get to book one of the best festivals in the world that almost every artist in the world wants to play. The curse side of it is that every artist in the world wants to play it. And we only have a hundred and whatever slots that we have. Are you getting calls now saying, hey, can we get on today? Well, it's calmed down a little bit at this point, but you might imagine the intensity level from say July to January. Yeah. I mean, there is a level though that if, I don't know, just say Jay-Z called up, you know, we might be able to slouch yet. We might be able to fix yet. And I'm not. We got a spot for it. We got a spot for it. Yeah, we always have a spot for Jay-Z. I don't say that complaining at all. I'm just saying we have a lot of options and it can be a little daunting sometimes to say, what's the right choice? Because a lot of times, you know, we're choosing, you know, between a bunch of artists that we want them all on. Yeah. I'm just sitting here thinking about some of the things that can affect whether you get an artist. I'm sure when you were talking to management, you want to know if they're going to have a new record out, if they're going to be touring, those kind of things can impact radio play and marketing. But I'm thinking about like Macklemore, a couple of years ago came back for the second year. He had a new album out and we all sort of thought maybe, you know, you guys were counting on it doing really well and it didn't do as well and that can impact it. And that's maybe one of the negative sort of things. But then you've got like St. Paul and the Broken Bones where he's booked and he goes on Letterman and Letterman just goes gaga over him. You know, you don't see that coming. You can't count on that kind of thing. You didn't know when you booked Lizzo, for example, that she was going to get eight Grammy nominations. But you have to sort of be able to adapt, right? So the idea that you start booking a year and a half out is fascinating to me because then you got to acts like tool who you know are always going to be good. A big part of it is that it's like those huge acts because that's how far out they plan. So a lot of the undercard is still like that's booked later. But those big ones are driven. Now about the undercard, how many of the undercard and you don't have to tell me a number, you don't even have to answer if you don't want to. But how much of the undercard comes along with some of the bands you've booked at the top? Yeah, like, hey, can you help us out with this? If we give you an insert artist here, can we throw in a couple of help us out? Yeah, we just don't really do it that way. You know, it's you know, for excited about an act and we think they fit the festival, we try to book them. I mean, it's really, I mean, I don't mean oversimplify. That's actually true. We don't like the package deal. But there's never been a band that you booked that we didn't really listen to and we sort of put them on there. That would be kind of funny. Like, you know, we have a slide. Let's just throw them throw them a bone. Honestly, and I'm being very sincere here. No, no, we, we, somebody has listened to them. Yeah, yeah, somebody in the somebody in the building. Yeah, exactly. Yeah, sure. Again, you can answer how you want to. And forgive me. There was alcohol involved at Moon River when I suggested that you get I thought you're going to talk about Camp Nut Butter as soon as you said, I don't know what Camp Nut Butter is. That's our camp. Okay. We want you to come back this year. You can. Thanks for the invite. I bet you get this. You guys get this all the time to make them say, I know the issue. That never happens. Bally is one of those I'm using her just because she's on top of everybody's list. Such an obvious one, right? I'm sure you get people say, why aren't you booked? It's that easy, right? Remember when Brian said earlier that we've Liz is the first headliner, but not the verse that we've tried. It's many issues. Maybe a good example for somebody out there who doesn't understand how these things are booked, right? You are trying. There's lots of things that happen from whether she just wants to the money, the timing, right? What are the sorts of things that you are up against when you want to go after somebody you want? It could be a bunch of things, Barry. The date doesn't work. Not working in that timeframe. Not the right time for their career. Not on cycle. They have to want to do it. They have to want to do it. That's a big deal. Or our financial offer doesn't match their expectation. Or we just don't have the right slaughter position for them in that moment. I could go on and on. So many things have to go right for a booking to happen, especially when you're talking about the top 10 to 12 artists on the bill. It's a long process that Steve and I go through. We want to make sure that it's as balanced as possible. That's kind of how we do it. All that being said, we would love to have Dolly out there. We'll probably try again next year. I think one thing to note, and this is one of the things I wanted to make sure to mention, going back to your question about data, we do look at a lot of data. But that's across the board. What we do for a living. We book bands. Not only at festivals, but we book regular shows as well. We're looking at a lot of data. We have conversations with our marketing team and our data team a lot about the numbers and what the fans are excited about. This is one of the main points I wanted to make. We look at the survey and the poll results a lot. If you fill out a post-festival survey, if you attend Bonnaroo and you fill out that survey about who you want to see in 2021, that is actually getting to the bookers of the festival. We actually are looking at that. We're taking that data into account and we're looking at it very carefully. It's one of the things like, obviously Tame Impala has been one of the most requested artists for the festival for years, but they were ostensibly the number one most requested artist to play Bonnaroo in 2020. We would have probably booked them regardless, but that was important to know. King Gizzard, going back to Steve's comment about having seen them in Asheville, but we also knew because the Bonnaroo fans told us they wanted to see them play out there. Has the Bonnaroo audience turned you on to a band that you didn't know before that you then went to see and said, man, this was something I didn't know until they were told to me? Probably. I mean, I would say I can't think of any specific examples, but there's probably something we've seen in there. Or things that we've thought, things that we've maybe had heard but never delved as deeply into or put together. Because it's not just the surveys and things like that, but we look at the socials, the Reddit, all of that stuff. We're listening to the fans. I would say it's less of a been turned on to something we didn't know and maybe more of a... We weren't maybe thinking that we were going to prioritize that act as much as we will now because we know the Bonnaroo audience is really saying, we really want to see them out here. Do you feel that way that... Specific to Bonnaroo because the engagement and the audience is so active, 360 days a year? Is that why it is? Because I can't think of another brand that has a connection that is so right there along with their, hand in hand with their audience. More with Steve, Ted, and Brian from AC Entertainment here in seconds. This is just such a fascinating conversation. There's so much more that we want to get to. I hope that you're following along the whatpodcast.com or the whatpodcast or the what underscore podcast on Twitter. Barry Courter. We've got some Patreons to thank before we keep going with the guys from AC. These guys are great, right? I mean, we just put this thing out there last month and wow, the reaction has been amazing. We can't thank you guys enough. Yeah, I mean, honestly, people in my family don't like me this much. They know you. I really appreciate it. If you Patreons knew him like I knew him, you know. Yeah, sure. All right, so this is what we got. Since January, we've got Dan Sweeney, Lucy Young, Linda Dolls, Chelsea Davis, Jason Hazelbaker, and Ella. Let's get back into our chat with the guys from AC Entertainment about the 2020 Bonnaroo lineup on the whatpodcast. To go back to your question, the level of engagement from the audience is incredible and it does. It helps us. So I would just say, look, if you're watching or listening to this right now, please, we want the feedback because we look at it. It gets to us. We see it. We take it into consideration as best we can. And we do. It really helps us craft the lineup every year. It's not the only thing that we look at, but it is a data point that we have and that we see and that we take into consideration. This is why I think that the most successful brands in the world put their brand values up front and then they show them to you and then they actually live them on a very regular basis. The reason why we do this show is because we love the brand so much. We love the values so much. And if those things are, and I have no reason to doubt you because you proved it, but when you say stuff like that and then you actually live it, that's showing how much your brand value means to the user. And if that's the case, the user experience becomes so much more authentic and real and connected to the overall festival. That's why we do this. That's why we do this show. That's why we engage on a 15 year level that we have. And that's why we're sitting here with you because we want to not be faceless necessarily because we take a lot of pride in booking this event. We don't take it for granted and we understand it's a daunting task really. And again, going back to the process, it's one that really almost never stops. We never are not booking Bonnaroo in a way because even though we may not be making a ton of offers right now for 2021 because it's so far out, but we're always thinking about, I'll probably pop into Steve's office after this in an hour and go, oh, I just had an idea for tonight. That's the constant dialogue that we have and we're always thinking about what are we going to do next. I want to go back to what Barry asked before because I don't think you guys ever really answered it, but he was talking about what's the mission. Just kind of from the 30,000 foot view, because I'm not doing any of the heavy lifting. You're the mission guy. Yeah. Yeah, maybe I'm the mission guy. But I think what's important is that from just this conversation, it's the relationship between the booking, what we do with marketing, what we do with experience, what we do with our partners at C3 to really set the stage. So this is amazing for everybody. But then these two guys have to go out there and really live it. And they're not just trying to put together a relationship that at the end of the day sells tickets. They're looking in the mirror and just want to be super proud of what they've done because it's almost like you're married to the Bonnaroo fans. There's a relationship there. It's very different from a lot of other things. So these two guys are doing tons of work all year long with an expectation not just to put it out there, but how the fans and how people who are Bonnaroovians are going to respond to it and really trying to create something that they're going to delight in. Not just like and buy tickets to, but just be so psyched that this four day festival is like the highlight of the year. I love how you just said it's like a marriage because if you're married, you have to make your partner happy damn near every day. Yeah, or just like a deep relationship. And this ties into what you, I think you were asking a second ago too, about who was on the bill and how was it different from booking other festivals because we booked at a bunch of other festivals. But like marriage, you want to make your partner happy most all the time. That starts at when you get up in the morning, when you go to bed at night. At Bonnaroo, it starts with the first band that plays on a tent and the first act that finishes at 4 a.m. Now we talk about the experience and how important that is. It seems like a little thing maybe, but two years ago leaving the Moon River Festival, which you guys do and seeing Jeff Quay are in a banana costume. It seems like such a little thing, but you leave there with a smile on your face and those little things add up. We've all heard the comments that it started as a jam band festival and it has changed. Some people think not for the better, but things like grass and shade and bathrooms, they definitely changed the festival. So how much does that total experience and having things like the plazas play into what you guys do? The plazas you now have to book now. This is really important because we live and breathe these stages and the bands on the poster and things like that, but that's not all Bonnaroo is. It's the experience and the plazas. Our friends at C3 do the programming, majority of the programming at the plazas. In those plazas, I mean, have changed the experience completely. Or We're in the Woods, or all these new things that make it not just about the bands on the stage. It's all a big, huge experience from start to finish. That's a really... That changes who you're now marketing to, right? That's something to be thinking about. Who could play there? Yeah, of course. Of course. It all fits together. Sunday morning on a stage, what do you want to see after you've maybe been up till four o'clock in the morning dancing at We're in the Woods? It all bleeds together. What do we have on Sunday morning? I don't remember right now. It all fits together as a whole. Sunday at one on the wet stage, I really want to go to church every year. The days of the Mavis Staples and the Sharon Jones and the Charles Bradley. Oh, I miss that slot so much. I really do. When the lineup came out, we were all stunned. It was Miley Cyrus did. I mean, the lineup was so strong. Seeing Miley on there... We got to throw a wild card in there every year. Who gets to take credit for that? Because it was genius. I don't know. It's a little bit of a raise your hand. From my perspective, I think that Miley gets, and her team gets a lot of the credit because this is just an example of an artist that really has some incredible vision. And I think, let's take it back, because it all ties together. It takes it back to the Bonnaroo fans and how they're perceived not just by our relationship with them, but by artists around the world as the number one music fans who are taste makers, who can create trends, and who can really set the stage for a career to take a different path. And I think Miley wanted more than anything, without speaking to her, to get in front of this audience and experience what they're like and just take it to them. That's interesting. I've got two questions about Miley, one not necessarily about Miley. But when she's going to be on some other festival lineups, indirect question, do you guys look at other festival lineups around the country? You know what's coming and you say, they're doing everything. That doesn't really where we want to go. And then secondly about Miley specifically, you think that she has a little bit more of a want to for Bonnaroo and prove something on the Bonnaroo stage because it's hometown? Do you think that she's an hour away from her house and has got some friends that she wants to bring? She wants to bring a different level of show maybe for Bonnaroo because it's so close to home? She definitely wanted to play the festival. I don't want to speculate on her motives because I don't know the answer to that. But I can imagine it's going to be a high level show from her at Bonnaroo, given the hometown vibe and ties. But yeah, I think again, it goes back to something that Ted said earlier. We like artists that want to play. We like artists that want to be at Bonnaroo. That's not always the case, believe it or not. And that's okay. But the ones that really embrace what we're trying to do as a festival, what we're trying to deliver to the fan base, what the fans expect, those are the ones that really excel and do really well at the event. And to jump back to your first question about Miley and she's playing other festivals. We do pay attention to who's playing other festivals. We can't control it. We don't always know. We do want to have our own identity, but we don't let that drive the programming completely. But again, the interesting thing about Bonnaroo is Miley Cyrus is on a lot of different festival lineups this year, but it's going to be a totally different experience the way we present her at Bonnaroo than the way she's presented at most other festivals. It just looks different. The experience is different. I think the fan reaction will be different. Yeah, I circle back and I wonder if there's ever a time where you see a band that's just doing everything. And you're like, we don't want to be just another festival that you play. But to a different point, when you guys book Insert Miley or I'll put it this way, I was having a conversation with Evan down the hall. I think that, and I don't know if this was on purpose, but I think your headliners alone are going to bring maybe the best three stage shows that you have ever had as a headliner. These are stage shows first. And it's not necessarily a recorded album. You may or may not like Lizzo or Tool, but the stage show that they bring is unbelievable, especially the Tame Impala thing if you saw the show after LCD Soundsystem a couple years ago. I don't remember a headliner, a top three, that have had this level of stage show back to back to back. Post Malone's fine, but it's not a stage show like Tool's going to be. Is that in the mind? Is that in the back of the mind at all? Yeah, I think it is somewhat. We're- Because I wonder how much production costs or production in general plays into the overall booking process. I don't know. It doesn't really, not for me. What do you think? Yeah, I mean- I mean, one of my favorite shows of the past, whatever, recent memory of Bonnaroo was Sturgill. My god, that show is so good. White lights and four guys on the stage. That's it. Exactly. No video, no moving lights, nothing. And heading from dusk till dark on the main stage of Bonnaroo and no production. And just shredded. And so, no, it doesn't- Exactly, right. It's all about the musicianship and the live music aspect of it. And that's definitely where we tend to go at Bonnaroo. Does that make sense? The criticism of Jam Band Roots, that's where we started. We certainly evolved, right? Over the years we had to and we will continue to evolve. But I'd say one thing that always kind of goes back to that, those roots, is that live- The live show. And show high level musicianship. And that doesn't mean it has to be a jam band, right? But it's just, and to me if you look at the undercard this year, so much of what we do still is rooted in that. How many shows you guys think you see a year? I don't know. I mean, it's what we do. Are you five a week? Are you five a week? Well, with young children, yeah. We send the young staff out for that kind of stuff. But we see a lot of shows. We still see a ton of shows. You must really trust your staff because you can't see every person that you've booked. You probably have not seen every- Oh, no. Live? No, no, no. But I think of somebody like Yola, who I think is your secret weapon this year, who's going- I mean, she's got a Grammy nomination for Crying Out Loud. And how you found her when you booked her, I don't know. But I have a feeling it's a Dan Arbot connection. But I love that album and I love her so much, but I don't know what she's going to be live. And I don't know if anybody's seen her live. And this is where Steve, I don't know, not to toot any horns, but Steve and I have been doing this for a long time. I was turned on to Yola, let's call it a year and a half ago. It could have been a little less, but let's say it's about that. And kind of knew the connection with Massive Attack and her history. And then I listened, I got a couple of songs before the record came out. And again, this is where we have, just being who we are in the professionals and being in the business, we get turned on to things before they're really out there. And I just remember listening to the first couple of tracks that I heard. And you just know that is going to be a thing. So we jumped on it. We had, we booked her, I think the first event we had her on was our inaugural Railbird festival in Lexington, Kentucky last year. And she opened one of the stages. And since then, obviously her career has really taken off, but we knew we really need to get her on Bonnaroo. And so much about an artist like that, timing really plays into a huge part of it. Because it's important, I don't know what kind of cycle we're on. There's so many bands to book in any given year. And really, if you think about it, if you're an artist that's breaking, what's the opportunity that you have at Bonnaroo? It's really, you almost have one shot at it. Because if we book you and it isn't the right time in your career or it's not the right slot or look or whatever it may be, then the opportunity to come back is, what are we, five years, four years, five years? It depends on the artist and what happens in their career. But we're not really repeating an artist very regularly. It's hard. But the ones that you do, you guys can go through and probably really take some pride in the amount of artists that you think you probably broke. Started small. Sure. I can go off the list. I think you broke the Alabama Shakes. I think you broke the Black Keys. Banks. Banks. You put her on a look that she hasn't had since. I don't know that we're breaking any. I hear that and I just feel like, I don't know that that's the right word. We have the opportunity with a great look, with a great, really music head audience. But I don't know that we're breaking any. Yeah, exactly. I think it's more, especially in the Southeastern region, it's very valuable to help build awareness. And we've definitely, that's not lost on us or anyone else. But break is not the right word. But we've also been, I think a lot of that also speaks to just being engaged and being like, I was actually, I did an interview with the LA Times last week about Tame Impala because they're doing a Tame Impala. And we've had a Tame Impala on the festival three times, starting with the tent on a Sunday at 6 p.m., that was in 2013, I believe, when the second record was just kind of breaking. They came back in 2016 and did the late night set on second stage, which you referenced earlier, and now they're headlining. So we didn't break Tame Impala, but we knew that Tame Impala was a great band and we fought on it early. But I've got a bunch of artists that really, really thank you a lot. Well, we provide an opportunity. But I think there's a couple of things you're missing though, right? Because we're just one part of it. Just because we book a band and give them an opportunity at Monterey, that isn't the end of the story, right? To me, there's two other huge factors there. One, the artist still has to come out and perform and put on an amazing show. But then the number one thing, the reason why we get so excited to book the undercard and the early slots at Bonnaroo is because it doesn't matter if we book a band early in a tent or on the Who stage or whatever, if nobody shows up to see them. And that's why Bonnaroo is the best festival in the world, because our audience shows up to every show. Because it gives us the confidence as it really allows us to be curators and taste-based groups and say, hey, we really think you are going to be turned on by this. We're going to put it on Monnaroo because we have the confidence that the audience, they're showing up and they're going to go see that act. And then it's on the audience and the artist whether or not that act breaks or not. It's not really, I mean, we're setting the stage, but we're not breaking anyone really. I don't know if that's the right word. Does that make sense? Yeah, it does. To me, it's like Lizzo. Like Lizzo is breaking and blowing up regardless of her Bonnaroo performance. I think we enhance and maybe accelerate it with a lot of media exposure. But to what Brian was saying earlier, I think one of the real challenges is the blessing and the curse. Everybody wants to play it. Well, that means if there's pressure coming from the artist, the pressure goes to the agent and the manager. Like, hey, this is really important to us. Regardless of if it's the right play that you're like what these guys are saying, Steve and Brian would do a great job of. You only break once. You only get like one shot to hit the Bonnaroo tent and really set it on fire. And a lot of times the artist and the manager and the agent are just responding for pressure. And everybody wants to do it. And it doesn't mean it's not the right time. But it goes back to the artist and the manager really is where it starts. It starts with the artist and having an idea of the timing of presenting themselves in this format on this festival. And it's really like once you get on the other side of the curtain, a lot of times it's no surprise that certain artists become successful because all of these little decisions add up to success. When am I going to break at Bonnaroo? When am I going to pray Lollapalooza ACL? When is that look going to be? I want to wait and make sure that when I do it, it explodes. Not when I do it, it's a little bit of a bump. And I think on our side with what Steve and Brian are doing, they are like driving the ship in some ways and reaching out. But in a lot of ways they're responding to who's reaching out to them. And their job is to figure out where the breaking moments are and to really try to find that for the year that's a year and a half out. But a lot of it, the curse part is coming from that pressure. Everybody wants to do it because everyone thinks this will be the silver bullet that will take my career from here to here. But that's not the case unless you're ready to go. Have you ever said no to somebody who wasn't ready? Sure. Yeah. Yeah. Harshly, we say no a lot. That's what I was going to say. I mean, we have some hard conversations year in, year out, and it all ties in really to a lot of times to what Ted was saying. We get a lot of pressure and sometimes it's not the right fit for us. Us being Bonnaroo. It's not the right timing for the artist. A lot of times that's a hard pill to swallow on the artist's side. But sometimes it's actually interesting. There was an example this year. I'm not going to name names, but it was where we wanted them on the event. And they turned it down because they didn't think it was the right look for the artist. We didn't necessarily see eye to eye on where it fit in. And so they were like, well, we're just going to wait. And totally respected that decision. And we'll probably have her on the festival next year. Part one complete for our chat with Steve, Ted, and Brian from AC Entertainment, the guys that booked the lineup now. We appreciate you listening. If you were listening, I know there's some wonky Barry Courter audio issues, which here's what's crazy. It happens all the time. Barry Courter's audio always just seems to be a little, little off every time. And I think I'm yelling. I think I'm screaming. I don't think I've. It's so quiet. I think I've never heard you yell. That's a good point. I probably haven't ever. You probably never heard me. I'm probably the closest person in your life that you've yelled at. I yell at my car and that's about my cat. Yeah. There was a time where me and Barry took a little, we took a road trip to Knoxville, of course, as you saw. But me and him took a road trip to Fort Castro one year and I annoyed him so badly at about three o'clock in the morning. I thought he was going to reach through the wall and choke the hell out of me. Well I told you about the dream that I later had where you started doing that again while we were at Bonnaroo and I came out of the tent and just went grapevaping. Grabbed you by the ankles. I might have spent the entire night sitting in one bedroom while he was in the other just yelling Barry! That's awful. Barry, do you like grapes? Bad memory. It was very strange. But anyway, what an interesting conversation with these guys and what a great way to kick this year off. Yeah, how about that little nugget of information that King Lizard, I'm sorry, King Grizzard is going to be doing late night. That's a big piece of information. We didn't know that. Well not just that, but out of that conversation, not only do they know who they're going after but where they're going to play and win. Yeah. I mean that's a lot of balls in the air to try to keep straight. We thought that we had most of this figured out. I did not think that that's how they did it. I did not think that they knew exactly where certain bands were going to play. Now I had this idea that they have to know when they're going to book somebody like Brittany Howard. She needs to know certain something. We know you're going to be on a Friday. We know it's going to be somewhere between four and ten. But I didn't know they specifically knew exactly what slot they were going to put each and every band. And that makes me think about all the questions that we may have missed. Now you get to watch part two next week and listen to it on Spotify, iTunes and all of your Android devices, all your devices. But when somebody like Brittany Howard, if she were to pull out, I wonder who the backup would have been. And I know that they probably wouldn't have told me because that gives a lot of things away but boy, what happens when somebody like that falls through? If you've already got everything already lined up on the grid and already on the schedule, who do you slide in there? Do you find somebody that's more like her? Do you find somebody that's totally just who you can get? That part I wish that I would have thought to ask. I mean, you do it. You do the rotisserie football and I don't know if you do baseball. Rotisserie football. What's it called? That's fantasy football. Fantasy football. It's changed. We used to call it rotisserie. You do fantasy football. That's what I always sort of imagine it, you know, is you go in with your list. Oh yeah, picking players. And your number one's gone. Yeah. And depending on where you are, I mean, it's somewhat similar to that. But the other thing... Boy, that is an interesting analogy. That is a Barry Courter specialty. Yeah, well, you know, but you go in with your list and I'm sure they go in with their list. But here in what it was, Grizzard, right? That he saw at a club. Was that the act that he saw? Yeah. He's like, I know where this needs to be. Late night. Late night of honor. Calling Brian and got it, you know? I don't know what I thought. I thought you said it right, that they go with their gut. But the fact that they have it all in their head years on out, I think we talked about driving home. How hard it would be if you dropped two people brand new in and said, go break this thing. Right. Right. Good luck. Good luck. Good luck trying to figure out this because these guys, like we said in the show, a sponge and they've got to be thinking about every angle and it's like octopus arms. They've just got to always be thinking about who goes where, where it's going to go, if it falls through, boy, the pressure that has. And that's why, you know, you probably give them a little bit more leniency if it's a lineup that you don't necessarily think is for you. This is really, really hard. And I don't know how the other, I know how some of the other festivals do it, but I don't know how the big ones like Lollapalooz. Lollapalooz is a big committee, man. A big committee of people. I don't know how Golden Voice and Coachella does their lineup, but for two guys to be able to keep all of this straight is pretty remarkable. Not just that, but they do other events and they admitted themselves, this one's different. And it's because, and this was fascinating to me, all of the elements that you and I have talked about and sort of come to realize that are part of this festival, the plazas, the experiences, they have to keep that in mind as well. What's marketing doing? What's the plaza? What's going on in there? How is what we are doing going to work with that? I mean, so it's not just a crawl in a hole and get 80 acts or a hundred acts. There's a lot to consider. And we appreciate you listening. We appreciate you being a Patreon. We've got some Patreons that we want to thank and we're going to do that right here on the screen. If you're listening on the podcast version at the whatpodcast.com, we'll read them to you. But if you're on the screen, they're scrolling past us right now. You know why? Because Lord Taco is a genius and he's figured this out. That's what I was going to say. Yes. Patreon, since January 1st, man, we can't thank you enough. David Grimes, Liesl Condor, Frank Swanson, Phil Hanley, Dustin Garrag and Chloe Howe. He took us to Camp Nut Butter in the middle of January. Is that where we are? That's where we are. Wow. It's amazing, isn't it? I'm a little overdressed. We'll see you next week on the whatpodcast part two happening next week. See you then. Journey through the stories that define the artists playing Bonnaroo. Who are they? What are they? What will you see? The what? Which bands? This year? That matter? With Brad Steiner and Barry Courter.